UC Berkeley

Architectural applications for 3D printing are steadily advancing and shifting from the creation of component parts to that of entire structures. Earlier this month, a faculty-led student team at the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley, unveiled an experimental pavilion whose construction brings the niche fabrication method a step closer to mainstream production.

Bloom is a freestanding structure measuring 9 feet tall and about 12 feet square that comprises 840 custom, 3D-printed blocks made of an iron oxide–free Portland cement polymer that is lighter than typical cement. Connected by stainless steel hardware, each block has internal grid that, along with the project’s undulating walls, offers structural support. The project team, led by associate architecture professor Ronald Rael, AIA, with the assistance of four graduate students, says it is the largest 3D-printed cement structure built to date.

“It’s a very precise, frugal technique,” said Rael, who is also a co-founder of the Oakland, Calif.-based studio Emerging Objects, in a press release. “The project is the genesis of a realistic, marketable process with the potential to transform the way we think about building a structure.”

Emerging Objects

Bloom’s thin, undulating walls derive from a single form rotated 45 degrees to create a twisted “x," while the variegated pattern on each brick catches light to realize the exterior floral design. The pavilion’s curved walls and engineered pattern combine a number of inspirations—Uruguayan architect Eladio Dieste’s thin masonry constructions, Thomas Jefferson’s undulating brick walls at the University of Virginia, and Richard Serra’s "Torqued Ellipse," according to the project statement.

Bloom will next be displayed at project partner Siam Research and Innovation Co., in Thailand, before traveling later this year to other locations around the world.

Tom Levy, UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley

This post has been updated.